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Matti Ensio Nykänen (About this soundpronunciation ) (17 July 1963 – 4 February 2019)[1] was a Finnish ski jumper who competed from 1981 to 1991. Widely considered to be the greatest male ski jumper of all time,[4] he won five Winter Olympic medals (four gold), nine World Championship medals (five gold), and 22 Finnish Championship medals (14 gold).[1] Most notably, he won three gold medals at the 1988 Winter Olympics, becoming, along with Yvonne van Gennip of the Netherlands, the most medaled athlete at that Olympiad.

Matti Nykänen
Matti Nykänen 2014-01-30 001.jpg
Matti Nykänen in January 2014
Country Finland
Full nameMatti Ensio Nykänen
Born(1963-07-17)17 July 1963
Jyväskylä, Finland
Died4 February 2019(2019-02-04) (aged 55)[1]
Lappeenranta, Finland
Height1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
Personal best191 m (627 ft)
Planica, 15 March 1985
World Cup career
Individual wins46[2]
Indiv. podiums76[2]
Indiv. starts143[3]
Overall titles4 (1983, 1985, 1986, 1988)
Four Hills titles2 (1983, 1988)
Updated on 10 February 2016.

Nykänen was the only ski jumper in history to have won all five of the sport's major events: a gold medal at the Winter Olympics (three times), the Ski Jumping World Championships (once), the Ski Flying World Championships (once), four World Cup overall titles, and the Four Hills Tournament (twice). His four World Cup titles is an all-time record shared with Adam Małysz and Sara Takanashi. Nykänen remains the only male five-time ski flying world record holder in history.

From the 1990s on Nykänen's status as a celebrity was mainly fueled by his personal relationships, his career as a pop singer, and various incidents often related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison following a stabbing incident in 2004, and again for 16 months following an aggravated assault on his wife in 2009.[5]

Ski jumping careerEdit

Nykänen on a postage stamp

For most of the 1980s, Nykänen and Jens Weißflog of East Germany dominated the sport. Nykänen won gold and silver at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. His 17.5-point gold medal victory was the largest margin of victory in Olympic ski jumping history at the time.[citation needed] He was also the first ever to win gold medals on both hills at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. In 1985 he flew 191 metres in Planica, a world record that stood briefly until Piotr Fijas (Poland) flew 194 metres, again in Planica, in 1987.[citation needed] His other achievements include a total of nine medals (five golds) at the World Championship level.[citation needed] He also won a total of 46 World Cup competitions (only now topped by the current record-holder Gregor Schlierenzauer, Austria) and won the overall title four times (also a record, currently shared with Adam Małysz POL).[citation needed] He won the prestigious Four Hills Tournament twice.[6] He competed in the FIS Ski Flying World Championships five times and placed in the medals every time. Nykänen also won the ski jumping competition at the Holmenkollen ski festival twice (1982, 1985). In 1987, Nykänen was awarded the Holmenkollen Medal (shared with Hermann Weinbuch).[7]

On 28 February 2008, he won the International Masters Championship, the world title for veteran ski jumpers.[citation needed]

Olympic gamesEdit


Event Normal hill Large hill Team
  1984 Sarajevo Silver Gold
  1988 Calgary Gold Gold Gold

World CupEdit


Season Overall 4H SF
1980/81 26 N/A
1981/82 4 11 N/A
1982/83     N/A
1983/84     N/A
1984/85     N/A
1985/86   N/A
1986/87 6 65 N/A
1987/88     N/A
1988/89 9   N/A
1989/90 19 16 N/A


No. Season Date Location Hill Size
1 1981/82 30 December 1981     Oberstdorf Schattenbergschanze K110 LH
2 28 February 1982     Oslo Holmenkollbakken K105 LH
3 12 March 1982     Tauplitz/Bad Mitterndorf Kulm K165 FH
4 1982/83 18 December 1982     Cortina d’Ampezzo Trampolino Italia K92 NH
5 4 January 1983     Innsbruck Bergiselschanze K104 LH
6 15 January 1983     Lake Placid MacKenzie Intervale K114 LH
7 16 January 1983     Lake Placid MacKenzie Intervale K114 LH
8 23 January 1983     Thunder Bay Big Thunder K120 LH
9 18 February 1983     Vikersund Vikersundbakken K155 FH
10 19 February 1983     Vikersund Vikersundbakken K155 FH
11 20 February 1983     Vikersund Vikersundbakken K155 FH
12 27 February 1983     Falun Lugnet K112 LH
13 26 March 1983     Planica Srednja Bloudkova K90 NH
14 1983/84 18 February 1984     Sarajevo Igman K112 LH
15 2 March 1984     Lahti Salpausselkä K88 NH
16 4 March 1984     Lahti Salpausselkä K113 LH
17 17 March 1984     Oberstdorf Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanze K182 FH
18 18 March 1984     Oberstdorf Heini-Klopfer-Skiflugschanze K182 FH
19 1984/85 4 January 1985     Innsbruck Bergiselschanze K109 LH
20 9 February 1985     Sapporo Miyanomori K90 NH
21 1 March 1985     Lahti Salpausselkä K88 NH
22 10 March 1985     Oslo Holmenkollbakken K105 LH
23 23 March 1985     Štrbské Pleso MS 1970 B K88 NH
24 24 March 1985     Štrbské Pleso MS 1970 A K114 LH
25 1985/86 11 January 1986     Harrachov Čerťák K120 LH
26 17 January 1986     Klingenthal Aschbergschanze K102 LH
27 25 January 1986     Sapporo Miyanomori K90 NH
28 26 January 1986     Sapporo Ōkurayama K112 LH
29 1 March 1986     Lahti Salpausselkä K90 NH
30 2 March 1986     Lahti Salpausselkä K113 LH
31 22 March 1986     Planica Srednja Bloudkova K90 NH
32 1986/87 7 December 1986     Thunder Bay Big Thunder K120 LH
33 1 March 1986     Lahti Salpausselkä K88 NH
34 8 March 1987     Falun Lugnet K112 LH
35 1987/88 5 December 1987     Thunder Bay Big Thunder K89 NH
36 6 December 1987     Thunder Bay Big Thunder K120 LH
37 19 December 1987     Sapporo Miyanomori K90 NH
38 20 December 1987     Sapporo Ōkurayama K115 LH
39 1 January 1988     Garmisch-Partenkirchen Große Olympiaschanze K107 LH
40 4 January 1988     Innsbruck Bergiselschanze K109 LH
41 6 January 1988     Bischofshofen Paul-Ausserleitner-Schanze K111 LH
42 20 January 1988     St. Moritz Olympiaschanze K94 NH
43 4 March 1988     Lahti Salpausselkä K90 NH
44 6 March 1988     Lahti Salpausselkä K114 LH
45 1988/89 17 December 1988     Sapporo Miyanomori K90 NH
46 1 January 1989     Garmisch-Partenkirchen Große Olympiaschanze K107 LH

Personal lifeEdit

Nykänen was married six times:

  • Tiina Hassinen (1986–1988), one son[8]
  • Pia Hynninen (1989–1991), one daughter[8]
  • Sari Paanala (1996–1998)[8] (Nykänen changed his surname to Paanala during this marriage[9])
  • Mervi Tapola (2001–2003) and (2004–2010)
  • Pia Talonpoika (2014– his death)

Relationship with Mervi TapolaEdit

Nykänen met millionaire “sausage heiress” Mervi Tapola (1954–2019[10]) in 1999,[8] and they were married from 2001 to 2003.[11] They got divorced in 2003, and remarried again in 2004.[11] The marriage was tempestuous and gave rise to many well-publicised incidents: The first reported assault against Tapola occurred in June 2000, following a restraining order that was imposed upon Nykänen.[11] In 2004, Nykänen was handed a suspended sentence for assaulting Tapola again. Nykänen had already been accused of assaulting Tapola in 2001, but the charges were withdrawn because Tapola exercised her right to remain silent.[12]

In September 2005, while on probation for another assault, Nykänen was re-arrested four days after his release for abusing his partner again. Nykänen was convicted and imprisoned for four months on 16 March 2006. Soon after his release, he stabbed a man in a pizza restaurant in Korpilahti.[12] In the summer of 2009, Tapola (then Tapola-Nykänen) petitioned for divorce a 14th time, but cancelled it.[13]

On Christmas Day 2009, Nykänen allegedly injured his wife with a knife and tried to throttle her with a bathrobe belt. He was charged for attempted manslaughter and held in custody by Tampere police,[12] but was released on 28 December after charges were dropped for insufficient evidence. On 24 August 2010, Nykänen was convicted of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 16 months in prison[5] and ordered to pay €5,000 in compensation to his wife for pain and emotional suffering and €3,000 for legal expenses.[14] In August 2010, Tapola made a 15th request for divorce.

Assault incidentEdit

On 24 August 2004, Nykänen was arrested on suspicion of attempted manslaughter of a family friend after losing a finger pulling competition[15] in Tottijärvi, Nokia.[16] In October 2004, he was found guilty of aggravated assault, and sentenced to 26 months in prison.[5] As it was a first offence, he was released in September 2005.

As an entertainerEdit

Nykänen performing in 2010

When Nykänen's ski jumping career was drawing to a close, a group of businessmen proposed to make him a singer. His first album Yllätysten yö was released in 1992 and sold over 25,000 copies.[17] Nykänen became the second Olympic gold medalist after Tapio Rautavaara to be awarded a golden record in Finland. His next album Samurai (1993) was not as successful.

At the end of the 1990s, due to serious financial problems, Nykänen worked as a stripper in a Järvenpää restaurant. The restaurateur was reproached for exploitation of Nykänen.[18]

In 2002, Nykänen made a comeback as a singer and released the single "Ehkä otin, ehkä en". He also gave his name to a cider brand with the same advertisement slogan.[19] In 2006 Nykänen released his third studio album Ehkä otin, ehkä en.[20] During most his musical career, Nykänen worked with professional musician Jussi Niemi. Nykänen toured Finland performing two to three times a week with the Samurai ensemble led by Niemi.[21]

Many of Nykänen's singles were named after some (in)famous quotes by Nykänen, such as Elämä on laiffii ('Life is live'), Jokainen tsäänssi on mahdollisuus ('Every chance is a possibility'), and Ehkä otin, ehkä en ('Maybe I did [drink], maybe I didn't').

In November 2009, Nykänen began to present his own cooking web series Mattihan se sopan keitti.

ADHD diagnosisEdit

In the early 2000s, Nykänen was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which obviously caused some of his difficulties.[22][23]


Matti Nykänen died at his home in Lappeenranta, shortly after midnight on 4 February 2019, from a sudden attack of illness, at the age of 55.[24] He had complained of dizziness and nausea earlier that night.[25] He had been diagnosed with diabetes less than three months earlier.[26] He reportedly did not adhere to a diet recommended to diabetics and continued to drink alcohol.[27] The news of his death was widely reported by the media both in Finland and abroad, with many tributes also paid to him by fellow ski jumpers of his time.[28][29] He was survived by his fifth wife and three children;[1] two from previous and one outside of marriage.[30] In May 2019 Nykänen's sisters confirmed that the cause of death was pancreatitis and pneumonia.[31]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In 1988 DPR Korea issued a postage stamp depicting Nykänen in the flight during competition.
  • In 2016, Swedish actor Edvin Endre portrayed Nykänen, in the British biographical sports film Eddie the Eagle.



  • A film about the life of Nykänen, simply entitled Matti, was released in 2006 with Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen cast as Nykänen. The movie focused on Nykänen's exploits beyond ski jumping.


  • Matti Nykänen, Päivi Ainasoja and Manu Syrjänen: Mattihan se sopan keitti (2007)[32]
  • Juha-Veli Jokinen: Missä me ollaan ja oonko mäkin siellä (2007)[32]
  • Juha-Veli Jokinen: Elämä on laiffii (2006)[32]
  • Kai Merilä: Matin ja minun rankka reissu (2005)[32]
  • Egon Theiner: Grüsse aus der Hölle (2004)[32][33] (the English version of the book Greetings from Hell was published in January 2006)
  • Antero Kujala: Voittohyppy (1999)[32]
  • Antti Arve: Matti Nykänen Maailman paras (1988)[32]
  • Kari Kyheröinen and Hannu Miettinen: Takalaudasta täysillä: Matti Nykäsen tie maailmanhuipulle (1984)[32]
  • Juha-Veli Jokinen: Myötä- ja vastamäessä (2010)[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Troubled Finnish ski jumping legend Matti Nykänen dead at 55". Yle News. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Matti Nykänen oli yksi Suomen kaikkien aikojen urheilijoista – mäkilegendan ainutlaatuiset saavutukset hakevat vertaistaan". Yle (in Finnish). 4 February 2019. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  3. ^ "NYKAENEN Matti 1963.07.17 FIN" (in Polish). Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Matti Nykänen". IOC. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
    ^ Boswell, Thomas (24 February 1988). "Another Jump Begets Gold for Nykanen". The Washington Post. Fred Ryan. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
    ^ Associated Press (24 June 1994). "Sports People: Ski Jumping; Nykanen Gives Up Comeback and Retires". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
    ^ Davies, Lizzy (28 December 2009). "Ski jump star suspected of trying to stab his wife". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
    ^ Battersby, Kate (8 January 2010). "Life still all downhill for ski legend Matti Nykanen". Daily Express. Northern & Shell. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
    ^ MacArthur, Paul J. (September–October 2011). Skiing Heritage Journal, p. 29, at Google Books. International Skiing History Association. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Young, Brett; Sarkar, Pritha (24 August 2010). "Ski jumping-Olympic champion Nykanen handed 16-month jail term". Reuters. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  7. ^ Holmenkollen medalists Archived 24 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine – downloadable pdf file.
  8. ^ a b c d "Nykänen, Matti – 7 päivää". 5 October 2007. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Nykäsestä Paanalaksi | Elävä arkisto". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  10. ^ "Mervi Tapola on kuollut" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 1 November 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Matti ja Mervi yhdessä kymmenen vuotta
  12. ^ a b c Satakunnan Kansa: Matti Nykänen viilsi keittiöveitsellä Mervi Tapolaa Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Helsingin Sanomat: Mervi Tapola-Nykänen veti pois avioerohakemuksen
  14. ^ "Matti Nykäselle yli vuosi vankeutta | Tampere". Archived from the original on 27 August 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  15. ^ Nykäselle yli 2 vuotta vankeutta
  16. ^ Syyttäjä vaatii Nykäsen tuomion koventamista
  17. ^ "Musiikkituottajat – Tilastot – Myydyimmät levyt". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  18. ^ YLE A-tuubi: A-Files 40V: Matti nykänen nakuna Archived 11 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine (video)
  19. ^ "Olut- ja siideriviikot". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  20. ^ "Matti Nykänen – Ehkä Otin, Ehkä En (Albumi)". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  21. ^ Aluelehti Saimaa: Matti Nykänen Enonkosken Rantsussa Archived 1 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Lääkkeet eivät ole tehonneet – Onko tarkkaavaisuushäiriö Nykäsen ongelmien osasyy?". Ilta-Sanomat (in (in Finnish)). 10 March 2004.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  23. ^ "Tämä Matti Nykäsestä muistetaan harvemmin – ADHD vaikeutti elämää, vankilatuomiot pysäyttivät laulajan" (in (in Finnish)). Vantaan Sanomat. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  24. ^ Juuti, Mikko (7 February 2019). "Seiska: Pia-vaimo löysi Matti Nykäsen kuolleena pesuhuoneesta – kertoo mäkikotkan viimeiset sanat". Ilta-Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  25. ^ Leinonen, Pauliina (4 February 2019). "Ystävä kertoo: Matti Nykänen oli valitellut illalla huimausta ja pahoinvointia" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  26. ^ Lintunen, Katja (15 November 2018). "Matti Nykänen kärsii oudoista oireista - sai lääkäriltä sokkiuutisen: Pelottaa helkkaristi!". (in Finnish). Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Mis põhjustas Matti Nykäneni surma? Lähedane sõber avalikustas hirmutava fakti". Sport (in Estonian). 5 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  28. ^ "JHS:n joukkuetoveri Kalso muistaa Nykäsen tunnollisena harjoittelijana" [JHS teammate Kalso remembers Nykänen as a conscientious trainee]. Savon Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  29. ^ Myllyniemi, Timo; Karjalainen, Tero; Marttinen, Mikko (4 February 2019). "Matti Nykäsen kuolema nousi pääuutiseksi Norjassa – kilpakumppani: "Hän oli mäkihypyn vastaus Diego Maradonalle"" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Soome meedia: suri suusahüppelegend Matti Nykänen". Elu24 (in Estonian). 4 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  31. ^ Lempinen, Marko (18 May 2019). "Omaiset paljastavat nyt ensimmäistä kertaa Matti Nykäsen kuolinsyyn" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Matti Nykänen (s. 17.7.1963) – Mattihan se sopan keitti". 17 July 1963. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  33. ^ "HS Sport 9.3.2004 – Matti Nykänen goes on the road to market his biography". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2011.

External linksEdit